I’ve been writing so much about my mom – about my grief and her death and her love – it only seems fair to acknowledge my dad. (Especially with Father’s Day approaching and all.)
I’m not going to write An Open Letter to my Dad for anyone and everyone to read. On Father’s Day – I’ll call and talk to him. He’ll be able to read the card I sent in the privacy of his own home. These are privileges to cherish.
But I do want to tell you a story about my dad. I’d like you to get a picture of who he was for me growing up and who he is to me now.
I won’t share how he not only taught me to fish but to scale and gut our catch; how he presented his horse obsessed eight-year-old daughter with typed out self-perforated coupons on my birthday, each good for a riding lesson; or how, when teaching me to drive stick, he was convinced I could start from a dead stop on one of the steepest hills by our house.
I’ll refrain from recounting story after story – but I will tell you this one…
Everyone gathered in the waiting room. Knowing it would take hours, we settled in with the family and friends who came to offer support. Before long, books were opened, chit-chat started, and funny stories revived from years past. A jovial mood replaced the obvious gravity of the surgery taking place in the operating room down the hall.
Before they wheeled him away, I said goodbye to my husband. I wanted him back the way he was before — unsure of how he would return to me.
We were married a little over five years. I was twenty-five. My husband turned twenty-eight, while hospitalized, three days before he had brain surgery.
Already a seasoned surgical ICU nurse, I had direct experience with the type of surgery and recovery my husband would go through. I was acutely aware of the multiple variables and potential complications during any surgery, let alone brain surgery. I cared for enough patients to know “recovery” was an idea referred to on a sliding scale, not a definitive point.
In the middle of the light-hearted banter of the waiting room, I could hardly swallow my panic. Hours needed to pass before we would know if the surgery was successful. Would I be caring for my husband or for a person I recognized only physically?
Why were people laughing? I knew it wasn’t a bad thing. I knew it was actually healthy. Yet, I felt like I could hardly breathe. I felt like I was barely containing the fear clawing its way up my throat.
Knowing, my dad suggested we go for a walk. I nodded in relief.
As dads do, he rescued me from slipping off the edge, silently, into an internal hysteria. The brisk October air with him at my side gave me respite from my growing anxiety.
We walked and talked. I’m sure I cried a little. But it was the unsaid words which meant the most to me. These are the same words my dad has whispered into my heart since the day I was born. These are the words I carry with me now and always.
Our simple walk repeated them again – I Understand You, I Love You, I Support You, You Are Not Alone, I Will Help You, I Am Here For You, Come What May – I Will Walk With You.